The Stage 3 fire and access restrictions to the San Juan National Forest have been rolled back to a Stage 2 condition which means access to the forest is once more open to the public. However, fire conditions still remain high and we are currently in the middle of a strong heat wave. Consult current regulations with the San Juan NF before planning any trips. Fines for violations are significant.
Be sure and read the trailhead information for the Needleton Bridge drop. This approach begins from where the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge railroad drops backpackers off at Needleton. Cross over to the east side of the Animas River on the sturdy footbridge. Almost immediately after crossing turn left and head north on a trail that will take you past the cabins and along the riverbank to a crossing of Pigeon Creek - usually not a problem to get across. Continue following the trail NNE into an open, grassy meadow, called "Campers Meadow" by Roach. At the northern end of the meadow, locate the old fallen tree mentioned by Gerry Roach in his 13ers guidebook. N 37° 38' 17.67" W 107° 41' 20.94". Last time we were there, the old log/tree was barely distinguishable. We've heard reports that it is now gone, so you may need to use the coordinates. Roach reports that the Ruby Creek trail takes off about 20 feet past the fallen tree to the right and in about 20 more feet, a faint trail heads diagonally off to the left for Noname Creek. He warns to not be mislead by heading straight ahead on the stronger trail. The Noname trail drops down a little NNW to another meadow called "Hunter's Meadow" by Roach. The trail continues from the NW corner of the meadow and in another 100 yards joins the now more distinct Animas River trail.
Cross N. Pigeon Creek at .5 mile. Continue north, hiking fairly close to the river towards Water Tank Hill. The hike up the hill starting at .7 mile, is not too bad or steep and the trail easy to follow. It gains about 200 feet in elevation, then contours above the river for a while. The descent back off Water Tank Hill is the trickier part, requiring something of a slide down a steep, partially-vegetated gully. You almost need a rope for this thing, especially if wet! Once down, continue north on the trail with little difficulty for a short while, but then you'll begin to come to some places where other trails began to split off, usually to the right. At one point we wandered to the right and a trail of sorts began to lead us on a contouring uphill direction. This trail soon played out and was probably more of a dead-end game trail that has misled other hikers. We corrected for the error and went back down closer to the river and picked up the real trail and continued north. For the most part, if you want to stay on route, keep near the river and do not be led uphill. Just before Noname Creek, the trail winds through some alluvial rock piles. Though one could get off route here if not paying attention, we found several cairns to help us through and arrived at the crossing of Noname Creek.
Take off the boots and locate some walking sticks to assist your crossing and wade on over. Then dry your feet and continue north, on past the campsite location mentioned in Roach's book (80 yards north of Noname) and come to the trail junction indicated by Roach. A cairn-marked trail leads up a short, steep embankment to the beginning of the Noname trail. Under no circumstance should you head east on the north side of Noname, immediately after crossing the creek. That will result in a difficult bushwhack. Now read the Noname Creek Approach that will guide you into the upper basin.
As previously mentioned, you can camp in the "Campers Meadow" north of the cabins and the Needleton bridge, after crossing Pigeon Creek. From there, the next good campsites are not until you cross Noname Creek. There is one campsite located in a glade of aspen not long after crossing Noname. The next good campsite is at the foot of the Noname trail, right alongside the Animas. The coordinates below can be used for the general area where you can find this campsite and also the beginning of the Noname trail. This campsite is just north of where the Noname trail heads off.